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New support and excitement for upcoming UTSC arts events

SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS: Drama professor Michal Schonberg (far left), is pictured working with his advanced performance students on their annual theatre production, to open on March 18. Watch the web site for details about this and other arts events coming up on campus. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Tammy Thorne

Professor Michal Schonberg started the first stand-alone undergraduate program in drama at the University of Toronto in 1973 at what was then called Scarborough College, and it has flourished ever since.

Today, UTSC’s popular drama program is about to get a boost from the campus’ new Arts & Events Programming (AEP) office, within the department of humanities. Lynn Tucker, AEP director, said visual and performing arts, which includes drama, is the homebase for arts at UTSC. The new office is headquartered in AA-313.

She explained how the office makes a difference. “Our office has many contacts across the tri-campus and we try to make event planning a bit easier,” Tucker said. “Instead of professors organizing events on their own, we help out with planning and logistics. If a professor has an idea, they meet with us and together we flesh out the idea and help make it happen.”

One professor with an idea is Schonberg. He is currently working alongside Jiri Havelka, the 2009 Snider Artist in Residence and director of the drama program’s yearly theatre production, Stepping on Toes: To Dance or Not to Dance.

“The play has to do with an institution that doesn’t really exist in Canada – ballroom dance,” Havelka said. “Young people who grew up in central Europe would take classes where you would learn the waltz or the foxtrot or whatever you like, depending on the class. It happened when you were 16 or 17 years old and it was often the first time you really encountered the opposite sex in a legitimate setting. So not only were you taught how to dance, you were also introduced to the niceties of social contact,” he said.

The 16 undergraduate students taking advanced performance are given a series of questions to answer and the play is born out of controlled improvisations. Schonberg said they have also been greatly enjoying the dance classes.

Schonberg grew up in the Czech Republic. “You know, Czechoslovakia was supposed to be classless at that time, but of course it wasn’t,” said Schonberg. “So in these dance classes you’d get people like me in school along with other kids that were learning to be welders, for example. But it was expected of you to do it no matter what class you were from and so you learned politesse as well as polka.”

He said he feels the same dynamic relationships can be achieved and expressed through this production because of the diverse nature of Scarborough campus. “Scarborough is, of course, the college with a great cross-cultural student body,” Schonberg said.

Stepping on Toes will be on from Wednesday, March 18 through Saturday, March 21 at 8 p.m., and a Saturday matinee performance will also take place at 2 p.m. on March 21. All performances will take place in the newly renovated 110-seat Leigha Lee Browne Theatre, which will have its official grand reopening as part of the university’s upcoming Celebration of the Arts (March 19 – April 3).

Other upcoming events hosted by Arts & Events Programming include:

Music Performance Lecture Series, featuring Heather Bambrick (Feb. 6), Mark Whale & Brett Kingsbury (Feb.9), Musicians in Ordinary (Mar.6 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in AA303), Phil Nimmons & David Braid (March 13 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in AA303), Peter Stoll Trio (March 20), Andrew Staniland (Apr.3)

TLKY Buddhist Lecture Series, featuring Professor Jeffrey Hopkins of the University of Virginia speaking on the topic of "Gender, Sexuality & Tibetan Buddhism: How Sex is Used in the Spiritual Path." (Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in AA-112 Lecture Theatre) and Film Series (March 13, 20, & 27)

Literary Series, featuring Julie Cruikshank (March 5)

Year-End Music Concert (March 28) & Jazz Night (April 2).

For more information contact: or (416) 208-4769. For more details on these and other events, visit the campus web site and click on "events" at

© University of Toronto Scarborough